Airlink Pumas Need Win Against Cell C Sharks To Maintain Second Place On Log


The race for Currie Cup Premier Division semi-final places will intensify this weekend, with the Airlink Pumas desperately needing a win against the Cell C Sharks on Friday at 17:05 in Mbombela.

There’s still enough time in the league phase for a few teams to make a late charge and clinch a place in the playoffs.

With five rounds remaining before the Currie Cup Premier Division playoffs, the Toyota Cheetahs are two log points clear of the second-placed Airlink Pumas at the top of the standings.

The result of the later match on Friday will have a significant impact on the standings. The Airlink Pumas need to beat the Cell C Sharks to stay in touch with the high-flying Toyota Cheetahs at the top of the standings. A victory will also ensure that they keep the third-placed KwaZulu-Natalians at arm’s length.

Jimmy Stonehouse, head coach of the Airlink Pumas made four changes to his starting lineup.

Up front, Cameron Dawson replaces Corne Foutie at loosehead who drops to the bench while Njabulo Gumede replaces Ig Prinsloo at tighthead.

At the back, Tinus de Beer replaces Brandon Thomson at flyhalf while Stefan Coetzee is replaced by Lundi Msenge at wing.

Likening the big games in this tournament to the demands and intensity of test matches, Cell C Sharks Currie Cup head coach Joey Mongalo admits, “This is our third test match, the first was Free State away, the second was last week against the Bulls, also away, and fortunately we passed those two tests. But this one is going to be just as tough, if not tougher than the others.

“The Pumas are a very good side that led the log for a long time, they’re one of the top teams in the tournament and we mustn’t forget that they’re the reigning champions. They’ve had a lot of good victories in the Currie Cup so they’re a force to be reckoned with, one that we have to take as seriously as every other test match game we’ve played.

“It’s going to be physical, the dew factor and humidity will definitely play a role in how we play and how the game unfolds. I have a lot of respect for Jimmy Stonehouse who coached me at Craven Week level in 2002, for the career he has built and the important figure he is in South African rugby.”

Casting his eye over what he is looking for from his team, he points out, “For us, it’s about more of the same. More cohesion, more connection, and it feels like we’re getting that and building momentum.

“We’ve said to the players that pride comes before a fall and our biggest enemy this week is dropping standards because we’re getting the results. We need to stay humble, keep ticking the boxes and don’t allow any complacency to slip into anything we do this weekend.

“But we’re looking forward to the trip and to maintaining the momentum we’ve built up over the last few weeks.”


Airlink Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Lundi Msenge, 13 Diego Appollis, 12 Wian van Niekerk, 11 Andrew Kota, 10 Thinus de Beer, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Kwanda Dimaza, 7 Anele Lungisa, 6 Andre Fouche, 5 Shane Kirkwood (c), 4 Malembe Mpofu, 3 Njabulo Gumede, 2 Llewellyn Classen, 1 Cameron Dawson. Replacements: 16 Pieter Jacobs, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Simon Raw, 19 Deon Slabbert, 20 Ruwald van der Merwe, 21 Giovan Snyman, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Etienne Taljaard.

Cell C Sharks: 15 Nevaldo Fleurs, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Josh Jonas, 12 Murray Koster, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Tiaan Fourie, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Jeandre Labuschagne, 6 James Venter, 5 Reniel Hugo (c), 4 Corne Rahl, 3 Khutha Mchunu, 2 Fez Mbatha, 1 Khwezi Mona. Replacements: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Dian Bleuler, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Marco de Witt, 20 Dylan Richardson, 21 Celimphilo Gumede, 22 Bradley Davids, 23 Marnus Potgieter.